Win-Win Holiday Visitation Schedules

Planning a Holiday Visitation Schedule Everyone Can Live With

Each year you pledge that the holiday season will be different. Stress free. Well-planned. And for once, the kids won't be disappointed by last minute changes to the holiday visitation schedule. Unfortunately, as hard as you work to stick to your family's pre-planned holiday visitation schedule, pulling it off isn't entirely up to you. Here are some practical suggestions to help you make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to holiday visitations:

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Work From an Agreed Upon Parenting Plan

Mid adult woman smiling at daughter at dinner table at Christmas time
altrendo images/Stockbyte

Especially at this time of year, you'll want to have an already-agreed-upon parenting plan that you can work from. Most families find it helpful to alternate years for the major holidays, but don't forget to factor in visits to see extended family members as well.

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Plan Ahead

Unfortunately, there will be many dates that you simply have no control over, such as the date of your child's school concert or holiday production. In addition, there will likely be parties and various event that your kids will want to attend, and that could mean that your family will want to tweak the pre-planned schedule a bit. In order to factor these dates into the holiday visitation schedule, record them on your calendar as soon as you receive notice about them.

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It's very possible that your kids' holiday schedules will be so packed with visits to see extended family members that they will have to say "no" to some social invitations. Realize that this happens in every family, and learning to prioritize which events are most important to them, and communicate their feelings clearly and respectfully, is an important life skill.

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Teach the Kids to Speak for Themselves

While you might be tempted to approach the other parent yourself and explain why the kids would rather attend an event with their friends on a given night, it's really best to teach them to communicate their desires themselves. This can be done through a simple three-step process:

  1. Acknowledge the plans that were already in place
    (For example, "I know we were planning to...")
  2. State the desire
    ("...but I received an invitation to...and I would really like to...")
  3. Suggest a compromise
    ("Is there any way we could...")

With time and practice, you'll find that this process becomes easier.

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Be Flexible

It's also important for all of the adults involved - including grandparents and extended family members - to be flexible regarding holiday visitations. You may find that celebrating with everyone on the day is too stressful, and that it's easier for the kids if large-scale celebrations with extended family members take place a couple of weeks before or after the actual holiday itself. In addition, as mentioned above, there will be times when the kids ask for changes in the pre-planned holiday visitation schedule so that they can attend events at school or with their friends.

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Don't Personalize

Finally, it's really important for all of the adults not to over-personalize and read into why the kids want to spend time with their friends or ask you to reschedule some of your regularly planned holiday celebrations. Avoid the temptation to replay in your mind how many times the kids ask you to reschedule events, as opposed to how many times they make the same request of the other parent. This type of negative thinking is never helpful. Instead, focus on the request itself. What are the kids asking of you? Take the time to hear them out, share your own thoughts and feelings, and see if you can't come to an agreement that serves as a win-win for everyone.